I'm at my wits end with my 3 year old DD's behavior.
Up until this year, she's generally been quite good and a pleasure to be around. She's always been really active and likes to be kept busy. She's got very advanced language skills, and an incredible memory. She's always been fairly good with trying new food and eating well, but we've also never really put too many restrictions on things either - she's allowed the occasional ice cream, or Happy Meal etc. We've never really made a big deal about food, just continually let her explore different things.
The biggest issue we're having at the moment starts with dinner time. As soon as her plate hits the table, she goes into battle mode, and is wearing DH and I down. Firstly it started just with her playing around with her food, and just generally being difficult - saying she doesn't like things, when she ate them perfectly happy the day before, or crying about being given the wrong color plate or cup. Our general rule is, you don't have to eat everything, just try 1 bite of each different thing on the plate. We tend not to plate up anything we know she genuinely doesn't like - off the top of my head roast pumpkin is one of them, so we just don't serve it to her. Last night we had roast beef, potatoes, peas and corn - she likes all of these things, but shoved the plate across the table when it was put in front of her. She started screaming about it, and when we ignored that, she went and banged on the babies bouncer, then started slamming cupboard doors.
It continues until bed time - sitting on the toilet for over half an hour to stall bed time, screaming for ages if we say one less bed time book if it's getting really late. DH has always done her night time routine with her - bed, books, and lay down with her for a short while for a chat as she's falling to sleep. Now when he gets up to go out of her room, she screams and cries that she doesn't want him to leave. Some nights he's in there for a couple of hours until she falls asleep in exhaustion.
Toileting is another issue. I initially started TTing when she was about 2.5, and while she "got it", she completely refused to use the toilet, as she was scared of wearing underpants and wanted to keep wearing nappies. I let the matter drop for a while, to give her more time. Just after her 3rd birthday, she changed her mind, and wanted to start wearing them, and TT-ed relatively quickly, with no accidents for a few months. In the last few weeks, she's started weeing on the floor nearly every time. Some time it's for a reaction - twice this week she's purposely weed in front of me when I'm bf-ing the baby and couldn't get to her. The rest of the time, she just don't want to stop doing what she's doing to go to the toilet. She's unfazed by feeling wet. As the initial toilet training was such as issue, I've tried to ignore this behavior, but it's also been escalating.
With regards to dinner time, we've tried a few things - rewarding good behavior - stickers, getting a fancy dersert, or an extra story at night - it worked for a short while, then stopped. We've tried punishing - bath toys taken away (as dinner is taking too long to have a play in the bath), one less story at night - this causes hours of screaming, as does getting put in time out. We've tried ignoring it, saying if she doesn't feel like eating, she doesn't have to - and then she gets up to even worse things, like hitting her sister, scaling the kitchen bench, to get attention. We just have no idea what else to try.
During the day, apart from the new toilet issue, she's generally not too bad, particularly if we're busy. She goes to sports lessons one day a week, day care twice a week, and usually a play date most weeks. On the weekend we're busy shopping, visiting relatives, or having a family day going to markets, down the coast, to the museum, or out to lunch, etc. I also try and spend one or two days at home a week just relaxing - this is when her behavior is usually the worst. She does enjoy doing craft activities, watching a little bit of TV, she'll spend some time playing with toys, and has recently started enjoying simple board/card games.
We do have a new baby (3 months old). Most of last year I was pregnant, quite sick, and with serious back pain - in the last couple of months of pregnancy, DD was left to amuse herself a fair bit, becuase I just couldn't get around - lots of TV, and quiet play in the play room. Since the babies arrival, I've actually spent a lot more "quality" time with her, doing craft, playing games, etc. However most of the bad behavior does seem attention seeking.
She tries to think of things to get upset about - earlier I said she had a great memory:- last year we went on holiday, and gave her a magnet activity board - one of the little pieces (out of probably about 30) went missing after the first time she used it, and each time she looks at the thing, she has a cry over the missing magnet. When she'd just turned two, she was given a drawing board, which got broken (not by her), and had to be thrown out - she wasn't overly attached to the thing, but still regularly says "I can't believe you threw my toy out". We did by her a replacement, but couldn't get an identical one, and over a year later still complains that it's not the same.
She's also recently had a couple of genuine upsets - she moved up to the 'big kids' room at day care, and for a while was a little scared by one of the carers - quite a nice guy, but big and loud, and he scared her by playing a chasing game with some older boys. She now cries every morning at drop off, which I think has more turned into habit than genuine upset - she stops crying as soon as we leave, and runs around happily all day. I've actually seen her playing with the guy she didn't like in the last week.
The other (which is more of an issue), was using the toilet in a parents room, and accidentally setting off the hand dryer - it was super loud, and absolutely terrified her. She now refuses to use the toilet anywhere other than home, day care, or her grandparents. Even if we walk past a toilet block, she starts crying.
So, in summary, I feel like I really don't know how to cope with her. I'm started to constantly yell, which I hate, but I'm just exhausted from the constant battles with her.
So, apologies for this turning into quite an essay, but there's just lots going on, and I'm really struggling to cope at the moment. I'm not entirely sure what I'm hoping to achieve by posting here, maybe reassurance this is typical 3 year old behavior (or not), or advice on discipline, or tackling any of the issues.
It's even started causing issues between me and DH - we're both just so exhausted by her behavior at night, we start getting snippy at each other over little things. And he's the most patient, relaxed person I've ever met. I typically am too. Everyone keeps asking me how I'm coping with the new baby - and she's a breeze - good feeder, good sleeper, happy disposition. But I don't think I'm coping with my older DD at the moment, I'm spending nights crying, and then feeling relief on the days she goes off to day care, and then feeling guilty about feeling that way.
This post has been edited by SlinkyMalinki: 01/03/2012, 05:57 PM